Chloe Derry

English - BA (Hons)

BCU has been the catalyst to Chloe's personal growth and transformation over the last few years. Coming to BCU made Chloe realise that being a parent is just one facet of her identity, and helped her find her individuality again.

"Having children was not part of my life plan, at least not at that point, and I really didn’t have much time to get my head around it. I had been working in a college for almost a year when I had the chance go travelling for a month in Australia. Before I went, I had been feeling decidedly unwell for a while, and was a regular at my local doctor’s surgery. Imagine my surprise when I returned to the news that I was (unexpectedly) expecting a baby. And imminently. Unbeknownst to me - and the medical professionals, might I add - I’d been pregnant for around 33 weeks, and it had gone totally under the radar. In fact, there’s a photo of me clad in a wetsuit on the barrier reef, and you’d be none-the-wiser.

To say I was shocked is an understatement. Everything I’d imagined about my future had changed in an instant. I waved goodbye to all of the young, free and single un-planned plans I’d daydreamed about. I was about to embark on a totally new lifestyle.

In September 2013 I gave birth to a baby girl - Tilda - and began to get my head around motherhood. Maternity leave – while lovely in many ways – doesn’t give your brain much to do, and there was only so many mother and baby clubs my sanity could take. Towards the end of 12 months of leave, I was desperate to work out what was next. I needed to be more than just a Mum.

I was having a chat with my family, weighing up my options one day when university came into question. I’d discounted the idea of going to uni the moment I found out I was pregnant, even though I was fairly certain I had wanted to go to University when I was at school – I just loved learning. People struggle with the demands of university as a ‘regular’ student, how would I manage it while looking after a small and very dependant human? I had too many responsibilities, too many time constraints.

It was Clearing and curiosity got the better of me. I visited the UCAS website to see which courses were still available closer to home. I found myself studying the breakdown of the BA English course at BCU, excited by all the module options and the agency it gave me to opt into subjects that interested me. My nearest and dearest could see that I wanted to do it, and wanted me to do something for me, reassuring me that I had all the support I needed. With some gentle encouragement my decision was made. Application submitted.

In a matter of days I’d gone from being completely clueless about what my future entailed, to having secured a place at university to study a subject I was really passionate about.

I started university just after Tilda turned one. Student life gave me lots of flexibility which allowed me to spend plenty of time with my daughter in her precious first years, so starting my studies when I did was one of the best decisions I could have made.

The community here is really inclusive, and being part of that gave me the space and confidence I needed to carve my own path. BCU welcomes a wide array of staff and students from all kinds of backgrounds, which makes it a really exciting and inclusive place to study.

Through my course, memberships to different societies, and being around campus, I have met so many interesting people who have enriched my experience here. My lecturers – experts in their field, and heavily involved in world-leading research - nurtured my interest in English by offering challenging content, and giving me the platform to develop my own ideas. My course surrounded me with like-minded students who I could share my love of all things linguistics with. These factors combined provided me with the supportive network I needed to excel in my studies.

Balancing my studies with family life was probably the most challenging part of being a student. Parenthood shifts the dynamic of university life, and I soon learnt to adapt in different ways to your ‘usual’ uni student – finding hours in the day I didn’t know existed.

Before coming to BCU I was apprehensive that being a parent learner might make me the odd-one-out. But university really does take all sorts. While being a parent learner was fairly unique, it didn’t matter to anyone I came across, and I even found a small community of people in similar circumstances to me. Being able to talk to people who were in the same boat helped, so I made sure I had regular contact with other parent learners, and this became a support network I really valued."

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